Housing

Every 18 minutes a household was made homeless in Scotland last year

The number of homelessness applications has risen for the first time in nine years

Homeless man on bench

The first rise in homelessness applications in nine years is a wake-up call for the Scottish government.

That’s the view of national homelessness charity Shelter Scotland after a one per cent rise in the last 12 months. Local authorities received 34,972 applications for assistance between April 1 2017 to March 31 this year, with the increase blamed on the impact of housing options and prevention strategies rather than changes to the underlying drivers of homelessness.

Previously, applications had been on an eight-year downward trend following a peak of 57,672 in 2008-2009.

Scotland’s chief statistician, who compiled the report, indicated that more housing options work will ensure that the number of applications has hit a low, making it unlikely that there will be further large reductions in applications beyond those already seen. There was also a one per cent increase in the number of people living in temporary accommodation with 10,933 people finding themselves in short-term housing.

A total of 3,349 of these were families with children – up four per cent from last year– while the number of kids living in temporary accommodation shot up by nine per cent to 6,615. Both rises relating to children are nothing new – it is the fourth-straight year that the figures have increased.

And Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland has insisted that the statistics should trigger action in Holyrood.

“These statistics are shocking and should start alarm bells ringing in Holyrood that homelessness in Scotland is getting worse not better,” he said. “Every 18 minutes a household was made homeless in Scotland last year with 34,972 homelessness applications – more than last year. For the fourth year in a row the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen – up 9 per cent to 6,615. And people are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.”

The Scottish government has invested heavily in targeting homelessness, launching a dedicated group of experts with a £50m remit of ending rough sleeping in the country.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has pointed out that the group has already taken aim at issues with temporary accommodation, with the government working towards implementing their recommendations.

“Last year we formed a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to tackle this issue, as well as homelessness and rough sleeping more widely,” he said. “The group recently set out a number of recommendations on how we can transform the use of temporary accommodation and we will be bringing forwards a programme of work to implement these recommendations, backed up by the £50m Ending Homelessness Together Fund, to drive change and improvement.”

But Shelter Scotland has called for the government to work more cohesively with the group in order to make a difference to people facing life on the streets.

“This is clear evidence that the good progress we have seen in recent years is now being reversed and bad housing and homelessness is blighting the lives of even more people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life,” Brown added. “We welcome the focus on homelessness in the last year from the Scottish government but it is now time for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to work together better to tackle and prevent homelessness in Scotland.”

Image: iStock

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